Making My First Latté with Breville!

I will demonstrate how to use the Breville Café Roma Espresso Machine for the first time and how to make a simple latté with the official Starbucks method!!! After having worked at Starbucks in my teen years, I can say with certainty that it was the best job I’ve ever had. I learned so much, drank a lot, and had so much fun with my peers. We were named the best Starbucks shop in the regional area!!! The major difference with this Breville machine and that at Starbucks is that this one is completely manual while Starbucks had fully automatic machines that would produce the crema with the touch of a button and you can even define for decaf espresso! I definitely need to try to get used to the manual version and play around!

1. Get Your Supplies. What You Will Need:
– Espresso machine
– Freshly ground espresso coffee beans
– Fresh milk
– Filtered water
– Syrup, sugar, or sweetener to taste

I would probably say that the most important ingredient is your coffee beans. Espresso is usually a dark roast to get that bold, caramel flavor from the beans. It has a strong aroma, bitter taste, but with a sweet after-taste. Personally, I love dark roast and at Starbucks, this would be any of the “bold” or “corsé” brewed coffees of the day (eg. Samurai). During the same day, there’s always a lighter version, which is called “smooth/mild” or “velouté” (eg. Breakfast Blend), and another decaf version (usually of the mild type flavor). Personally, I always go for the stronger coffee because the lighter the roast, the more acidic after-taste which really bothers me.

Anyhow, there is only one type of bean for espresso at Starbucks and is actually the cheapest of their entire 20+ flavor selection. For 1 lb of espresso beans, it costs 16.95$CAD compared to any of their other beans which is about ~24$CAD (sorry, can’t remember exactly). You can either ask them to grind the beans for you or you may choose to do so at home if you have your own machine. Starbucks policy states that anything ground for more than 7 days is trashed in the store and opened bags of unground beans is trashed if not used within one month – this is a major reason why your drink is so expensive! Of course that would be very wasteful at home, but try to remember that if you don’t drink espresso regularly, it’s important to keep your coffee in an airtight canister. The best ones are made of aluminum tin cans or glass. I plan to transfer my coffee into something like this after:

The next most important ingredient is your milk! You must have fresh milk, preferably something that is NOT skim or completely non-fat. By default, all espresso drinks at Starbucks are made with homogenous 3.25% fat milk. The reason is that not only do you have a creamier and more satisfying taste, the foam is so much more smooth in consistency. Remember that good foam is creamy, whereas bad foam is bubbly!  It’s easy to make bubbly foam, you just sloth in your milk pitcher into the frothing nozzle and go up and down which brings more air into the milk. I cannot stress how bad it is to go up and down!!! This is VERY bad technique and I always see this in home videos or even in some professional ones as well!!! Your pitcher should basically be level, again not bobbing up and down, then you gently slide the nozzle deeper down into the pitch so that the milk at the bottom gets warmed.

Personally, I like 1% milk which gives you a good balance between taste and creamy foam, while avoiding all the fat in whole milk. At Starbucks, the other type of milk that they have is non-fat (we did not like the word “skim” since a competitor used this word for their drinks) and soy-milk from Silk. Now you know you have a good barista if she can make creamy foam with soy-milk!!! I’ve always been impressed by my colleague back then cuz I was never able to get soy-milk to the right consistency. Starbucks actually does not have 1% or 2% milk (well they did, but discontinued them), so they mix with the non-fat and 3.25%. 1% is made 50:50 and 2% is made 30:70. I should also mention that milk is only reheated twice at Starbucks. Often, we just threw out the milk if it’s been lying there for more than 10 minutes. Not only do you harbor bacteria, re-heated milk tastes different (to me at least) and you always risk having burnt milk!

On a side note, I SWEAR BY NATREL‘s Lactose Free Milk!!! I’m actually lactose tolerant, but sometimes I do get a little bloated, so why risk the occasional discomfort when I can eliminate it completely? However, the reason for why I specifically choose Natrel is for their special filtering mechanism which gets rid of the slightly sweet flavor like in other lactose free milk. eg. Beatrice, nasty! What happens when you add lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, to milk is a break in the chain of the disaccharide resulting in galactose and glucose. The simpler sugars are more “sensible” to our taste buds, resulting in a perceived sweeter taste in lactose-free milk, which I HATE! I feel like I’m going to throw up on these sweeter milks… Thankfully, Natrel‘s filtering system gets rid of the monosaccharides? I actually don’t know what they’re filtering out lol.

The Starbucks syrup is completely optional, but my favorite is Toffee Nut. It’s like this wonderful blend of caramel, hazelnut, and vanilla! My old favorite was Dulce de Leche which was unfortunately discontinued. Usually people don’t know of this syrup and for those who do, the Starbucks staff usually know that either you’ve been a forever fan or that you’ve worked as an employee there in the past (and often after the way I call out my drink, they give me weird googly eye looks that say “I know you’ve worked here!!!”). Anyhow, you can buy these bottles of syrup for 9.95$CAD each, but they don’t come with a pump. What’s great with these syrups is that you can buy several and mix them together, which is how their Caramel Macchiato is made (drink is actually made wrong according to the name and there’s no caramel syrup in there either…)
Of course if you don’t want flavored syrup, there’s always sugar or sweetener that you can add.
Unless you’re hardcore with your drink and prefer black…


2. Prepare Your Machine:

For the first time, I’ve already hand-washed all the equipment and I’m going to use more filtered water than I need just to run the machine once. You only need about 2 cups really for a single. The 1L water basket has a nice handle so that you can just drop it into the slot without getting water everywhere. As you can see, I also have my filter holder, measuring spoon/tamper, and choice of 2 filters (if you’re using a pod, you need the pod filter which is not pictured). Normally, I always go for 2 espresso shots which means that I need the double filter. If you’re having a smaller cup of coffee, then use the single filter.

Turn the machine on and let it rumble until the yellow “Heating” sign turns off. This means that your water tank is heated up and you’re ready to roll!!! For the first time and for cleaning, you can turn the knob toward the right “Espresso” to have water flow through the system for a minute.


3. How to Make Your Espresso:

Now that your machine is ready, you have to get the espresso prepared. Like I said, single filter for 1 shot, double filter for 2 shots, or pod filter for pods. Shown below is the double filter which is then pressed firmly down into the filter holder.

Similarly, 1 spoonful (leveled) per shot as appropriate for your filter. Once you spoon in the coffee grind, gently tamp on it once or twice.

Picture underneath of the brew head. When you’re ready to make your shots, you insert the holder from the left. Once it clicks into place, swivel to your right to lock it in place. When you’re actually making an espresso, do NOT unlock the holder by turning to the left and do NOT open up the water filter in the back! Both places have high pressure build-up which can give you a major burn!

Now, I know that other people will make the espresso first before making the milk. However, Starbucks policy was that espresso is not to sit on the sill for more than 30 seconds. What this implies is that espresso is NOT good after this short time and will sink down and you lose your crema while taking a lot of time frothing the milk. Lineups at Starbucks are often not because of the espresso taking time to get pressurized, but rather the milk that needs to be heated. So if you know that your espresso might sit there for a while cuz you don’t have your milk prepared to be poured in right away, then you should make the milk first and then make the espresso.


4. Making Your Milk:

Either before or while your espresso crema is being extract, you should warm your milk now. Like I said before, it’s best not to have your espresso sitting there, waiting for the milk for more than 30 seconds. The Breville machine has a nice little rubber handle for you if you want to move the frothing nozzle which has this innovative feature, where there’s a “cap” on top, apparently it enhances the foam? I will need to try this frothing enhancer later, but I just didn’t want to do it tonight cuz it’s extra cleaning!!! lol

When you’re ready, turn your setting knob toward the left “Steamer” position for frothing milk. I like to keep my hand on the bottom of the pitcher to provide support and feel the temperature of the milk. After a while, you’ll be able to tell what’s your preferred temperature and you won’t need a thermometer. Starbucks usually has a standard of 120-130 Fahrenheit. The foam in here actually is pretty bad. There are a LOT of nasty bubbles. I actually can’t blame the machine though because I know what happened with those bubbles when I was just running the machine through to warm up the nozzle. The prepping made all the bubbles when I thought that we had already started frothing. Remember to never let the nozzle head touch any part of the metal pitcher. Metals conduct heat fast! So when your hand is at the bottom feeling the temperature, you might be just feeling the pitcher getting hot rather than the actual milk! Plus you might end up getting a burn.

Don’t forget to clean your nozzle IMMEDIATELY after use! Milk is nasty and crusty when dry, which can clog up your nozzle. Use a damp cloth to wipe, but becareful the nozzle is very hot!

Milk gunk can be de-clogged using the pin provided. If you still have problems, your can unscrew the nozzle and give it a deep clean under warm water.


5. The Fun Part: Mixing Your Drink!

We talked about the syrup, but how much do you put in? Usually here are the Starbucks specifics:
Mezzo/tall – 3 pumps of syrup (exception 2 for Caramel Macchiato)
Grandé – 4 pumps of syrup (exception 3 for Caramel Macchiato)
Venti – 5 pumps of syrup (exception 4 for Caramel Macchiato)

However we don’t have a pump, so Starbucks says 1 tsp for every 8 oz of fluid.
Personally, any average sized mug is like a Grandé, so about 4 tsp and each tsp is about 1 pump equivalent.
Once you have your syrup which ALWAYS goes on the bottom of the drink first (1), pour in the espresso that you’ve made (2-3), and then add your milk in last (4).

The espresso here is actually running a bit thin and I can double check by looking at the extracted left-over grind. I guess I’ll have to play with the machine some more.


Usually, if your foam is bubbly, you can let it sit there on the side for a couple of minutes. This will often deflate a lot of air bubbles so that your foam becomes thicker. Now, enjoy your cup of freshly made at home Starbucks grandé, toffee nut, 1% latté!!!


Next Day Breakfast Update:

I am SOOOOO impressed with this machine now that I tried it again! I should say that first cup of espresso last night was truly like a “crêpe de chien” (you know when you make a bunch of crêpes but the first one is usually inconsistent in heat, oil, texture…etc so you give it to your dog to eat? lol). The crema was really thin yesterday, but today it was like full blown soft, warm caramel-like espresso! I also tried heating the milk with the froth enhancer which adds a LOT of air bubbles if you only let the head dip into the milk. If you want more soft foam, you need to complete bury the head down into the pitcher. As expected, I still like my milk without this enhancer.


Speaking of crêpes, I will now show you how to make a French crêpe – apparently the traditional Bretagne (Brittany) method.

This may look like a typical breakfast omelette to us in America, but it’s officially a crêpe for the French. So usually I suck at this cuz my non-stick pan has turned into a sticky pan over the years and I can never manage to go buy a new one cuz I’m always in shock at how expensive they are these days (50-100$?!??!). Plus I don’t really need to have good kitchenware cuz I can’t cook – well at least not main course meals. I can do some simple stuff and I love to make cakes and desserts. So I can do breakfast and dessert no problem but that’s only because breakfast = dessert for me lol.

What you want is to make your batter first. For this, I use 2 eggs, 1/4 cup skim milk, 2 slices of ham, 2 large mushrooms, and couple of spinach leaves. Then I added a pinch of salt, pepper, and MSG (yes, I eat MSG and I’m still alive). Usually I like the bigger more exotic mushrooms (eg. Maitake, Shitake; I don’t like portobellos in here…), but I didn’t have time to go do groceries for 2 weeks lol. If the night before I have some left over boiled potatoes, I like to use them here as well.

Anyhow, pour your batter into your pre-heated pan with some oil (I use olive oil even though I know you’re not supposed, but I don’t have vegetable oil). Make sure the heat is set to low-medium or else you’ll end up burning your crêpe. Let it simmer there for about five minutes. What’s particular about the French way is that you do NOT flip over your crêpe!!! If the center is too wet and liquidy, roll your pan over so that the batter runs down and seeps toward the edges.

Flipping the crêpe over is apparently a North-American thing to do and the French do NOT admire omelettes or similarly pancakes for this reason lol. I was told that the latter is some deviated form of the well-known paper-thin Bretagne crêpes. I do understand their thinking. Clearly flipping them over and having a thicker batter requires less skill to cook and is not as time consuming as the French method where you really need to wait for the center to cook thoroughly without flipping it over. The breakfast crêpe that I have in the pix here are not the super thin ones which are good for dessert or snacks. I like these with some powdered sugar, chocolate, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries 😀

So when you’re satisfied with the texture in the middle such that it is no longer liquidy, you’re now ready to serve the crêpe! What you want to do is flip it over onto a plate with the bottom side up. If you have a good pan, it should be easy. My frying pan is a bit wonky, but at least today it behaved well for me to show you guys this, TADAAA!!!


Final pic, of my morning with my Starbucks Toffee Nut latté, French crêpe, peanut butter jam toast (to counter all the European hubris lol), and a small slice of carrot cake that I made a couple of days ago. YUM!!!

For My Inner Barista!

Maestro would like to introduce my newest purchase, something that I’ve wanted for years, and of course something that my parents refused to fix at home… What is it?


Breville Café Roma Espresso Machine


I used to work at Starbucks over the summertime and seriously, if money wasn’t an issue, I’d be a barista any day! Well, I’ll always look forward to having a cup of coffee while sitting out on the patio tables at Starbucks once I retire. Until then, I’ll rely on my inner barista to carry me through these years and make me delicious cups of coffee with my new Breville machine. The brand is founded in Australia and is known for making the world’s first sandwich toaster in 1932, which spread through the western countries like smallpox. These days, Breville has made numerous fine kitchenware and has won countless innovative awards.

At home, we actually had a state of the art Gaggia machine which was bought for 1000$ ten years ago, that was a LOT of money back then. Gaggia is also a competitor being the first Italian company to make the modern steamless espresso machine. Since 2010, Gaggia was bought over by Saeco (division of Philips) and the machines are no longer completely made in Italy. It’s unfortunate that my my parents don’t recognize the value of our espresso machine. They just dumped it in the corner, not being used for years, and finally took it out one day to find that something was a bit wonky and just threw it out!!! As one can imagine, I was pretty horrified when I found out last year. I mean, I was seriously pissed! All along I’m the one who LOVES lattés and have always been eyeing this machine. I was confident that Gaggia‘s CS would ask us to just send the machine back, they’d fix it at some cost for 100-200$ max, and you’d have years to enjoy from it again. Anyhow, enough of my rant lol, but thank you for reading this section!

My beautiful machine was bought on during the boxing week specials where there were a couple of items ranging from 50-70% off. I guess you can say that I have a knack for things that might go on sale soon, so a couple of weeks before, I was already stalking it everyday lol. I think a lot of people don’t realize that you can get almost anything that you want at really good discounts. The thing is that you have to be patient and regularly stalk, stalk, stalk!!! lol

The pin is for cleaning the milk frothing nozzle and there’s another smaller pin on the other end that’s covered by the cap in the pic below. The smaller pin is to poke at the filters if they get clogged with espresso grains.

Stay tuned, I will make another post soon for how to make your own latté, the Starbucks style!!!

My Mom Says: Never Dress Better Than Your Boss!

And for men, the title is adjusted to: Do Not Drive a Better Car than Your Boss! 🙂

I’ve been asked many times by women what they should wear when going for medical interviews or those who wish to start a career in the healthcare field. Specifically, one of the most common questions are related to wearing Christian Louboutin shoes where there seems to be a split in opinions. I’m going to dedicate this post to my mother who’s taught me important life skills that most people would never teach you. The following are some tips for what I think is best to wear during important professional interviews, whether you’re going for medical residency, law school, or a CEO position. Of course, each person/case/scenario may vary, so you have to judge what is applicable to your situation.

Eg. Here is the general attire that I wore for my residency interview last year. I’m wearing RW&Co‘s skirt-suit (mind you that it has not been ironed since then, so the suit is wrinkled), H&M‘s blouse, and Jimmy Choo heels. For my actual interview, I had my hair up in a bun instead and wore nude pantyhose (do not go bare-legged!!!).


1. Stay conservative, traditional, and professional with your clothing:

Depending on what field exactly, I think women should wear a skirt-suit. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of a skirt for whatever reason, then trousers are fine as well. You have to be comfortable wearing your suit! Being comfortable with yourself shows honesty and exudes self-confidence which is the most important thing during an interview.

Does your suit need to match? I think that would be a good idea! If you’re not a runway model for Roland Mouret, then it’s best to match your top and bottom pieces.

Are colored suits okay? Only in the fashion industry, they may be acceptable, but I would even be cautious in this field. You will never go wrong with a black suit, but you can always make a fashion faux-pas! The medical field is always conservative. Speaking from my own experience, I thought my friend and I crossed the line when we wore our grey suits because we were THE ONLY TWO who wore non-black! As for other neutrals like brown and navy suits, meh…. I’m not keen on them and think they make me look old… but if they work for you, go ahead!

Is the length of my suit/skirt right? Do I need to get it tailored? It’s important to look good in a suit that fits you well. The length of the sleeves should be right at your first thumb knuckle (medically, first metacarpal-phalangeal joint) when you hang your arms straight down at the side. Your jacket’s length should hit you at your hips (the anterior superior iliac spine). Your skirt length can vary slight at the knees – slightly higher up if you’re short like me or traditionally right below the knees if you’re tall. If you have a large bust, go for a larger size suit and have a tailor nip in the sides and cut the sleeves. When you actually go for your interview, make sure to keep your blazer jacket buttoned-up!

Do I need to wear pantyhose??? YES for a formal interview! As granny-like as they are, pantyhose is a must for me! Choose a matte style with nude color that matches your skintone. If you prefer black, I would go for a sheer matte style with a denier count of less than 40.

2. “It’s the shoes that carry the woman” – by Christian Louboutin:

Okay, let’s address this Louboutin yes or no question. For me it’s a definite no if it’s for a very important interview. People know CLs are very expensive – so you don’t need this job then, right? Just try to imagine from the other perspective, if you were the interviewer and you have your interviewee in front wearing CL, how does that make you feel? If the interviewee dresses better than the interviewer, there is always the chance that people may think of you negatively for whatever reason. If the interviewer doesn’t care, then all the better, but why risk your chance? Not only so, they are a distraction from YOU! The interview should focus on your assets, skills, or other capabilities, and not your shopping style or fashion taste. I would be weary when some people tell you to act non-conservatively…

How high do you go? Less than 3 inches and never wear platforms.

What color? Neutral.

What style? Slightly pointed, round, or almond toes in work shoes are all fine. The classic is of course a point toe. No weird logo decorations on the shoes please and the only bow-like design that I think is acceptable would be Ferragamos.

Can I wear peep-toe styles? So I guess you don’t plan on wearing pantyhose either then? lol That’s a double no! Peep-toes have never been considered to be work appropriate in a conservative setting.

I can’t wear heels, are flats ok? I think most ballet-like flats are too informal. I prefer a pair of structured flat shoes.


3. What to do with you hair, makeup, and accessories:

How much accessories can I wear? The bare minimum. You only need your watch to be honest. I would say stick to a total of 3 SMALL pieces. You have a watch already, then choose 2 from the following: ring (if you’re married or engaged), earrings, or necklace. I think it’s inappropriate to wear “statement” pieces and even if you’re in the fashion industry, that cocktail ring that you have on may very well be viewed as something passé from 2 seasons ago.

Gold or silver jewelry? The timeless debate. I personally prefer gold even though I have pale skin. I think it has something to do with my grandmother liking gold more… However honestly, wear what you’re comfortable with. I have no opinion on this one other than NOT BOTH at the same time 🙂

What bag to bring with me? A small black logo-less tote is best.

What hairstyle? Conservative – wear your hair up in any style (ponytail, bun, or even slightly messy updo). Do not style your hair with bountiful waves. There were a couple of girls on my residency interview tour who had their hair so styled as if they’re going to prom. I think they were only missing some glitter…

What about my makeup? Conservative – this is not prom again.
The night before, give your face a moisturizing mask so that the next day your face will be ready for lights and action! Do NOT drink a lot of water before bed because this will give you puffy eyes the next morning!
My routine is that I like a matte foundation to even out my blotchy, tired skin from lack of sleep. Try to look “lit from within” so that you give a positive energy, but not with a shiny face. For all my important events, I wear Chanel’s Matte Lumière foundation which gives perfection to your complexion.
Your eyes should be a simple wash of neutrals – light brown, taupe, or grey (no red undertones please as this will make you look like you partied all night). No smoky eyes or harsh eyeliners!!! Add a bit of mascara and you should look beautiful. For me, I use La Prairie’s Luxe Caviar Eyelift Cream, then I add MAC’s Paintpot in Painterly to prolong the wear of my MAC eyeshadow in Satin Taupe. I’ve been wearing Lancôme’s Hypnôse mascara for the last 10 years now, so you can never go wrong with this in black!
You can add a bit of light pink blush and lipstick to complete your look. Do not wear lipgloss! Your shiny lips will be distracting!


2. Be professional in your speech, posture, and gestures.

Do not slouch. Not only do you get back fat from long-term slouching, your arms grow bigger too! I’ve always been taught to stand straight with your shoulders back, suck in your stomach, and tuck in your bum. This gives you a near perfect straight line.

Not only is the content of your speech important, so is the way you talk! Try to be professional. I always prepare a list of possible questions that people might ask me and I MEMORIZE my answers. Or at least practice in front of the mirror a couple of times to know how you look/act/speak.

For both my medical school and residency interviews I had an entire 20-30 something pages of notes typed up and had memorized every word. Usually for any situation, I’m always prepared and if you put your position in that of an interviewer, I’d say 99% of the time, you’d be able to figure out their questions. What they want to look for is how well you can portray YOURSELF in an overly generalized question. People want to see what type of person you are and if you fit in with the existing group of workers. A simple question like, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” is not just you saying a couple of random adjectives and no one wants to hear “oh my weakness is that I work too hard.” My rule of thumb is that for every answer you provide, you MUST back it up with an example or two. Examples help people relate to you, stories draws people in, and blunt-ended answers close off connections which are crucial to form within that 15-20 minute interview (and if you’re good, they’ll want to keep asking you questions and keep you for maybe 30 minutes!). One of the the best advices given to me was to keep a story bank and the best ones are experiences that could be applied to several situations so that you can spin them around and don’t need to necessarily memorize 30 different events. You should have 10 good stories at hand to be used anytime. The more experienced you become, the better you will be to connect all the stories so that the interviewer does not forget them or if they didn’t completely get it the first time (and no one really does!) you’ll be able to connect the missing links and give them a whole view of yourself.

Lastly, if people ask you do you have anything to add or do you have any other questions? ALWAYS ask something insightful pertaining to their field (ie not so common that you can just look it up on the net), this shows that you’re genuinely interested! Do NOT ask about salary and benefits. You have not gotten the job yet. It’s a good idea to consult your family and ask them to interview you. Prepare your answers well. Then it’s just a matter of reciting them during the actual interview and people will be blown away by your thoughtful, comprehensive, and personalized answers.


3. Smile sincerely!

Please do not flirt. This is unprofessional. Do maintain good eye contact, smile sincerely, and enjoy your interview! Remember, you got here because people think you have potential and are genuinely interested in knowing you more! 🙂